Sev­ens women get lure of Olympic ap­pear­ances

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - IAIN PAYTEN

EMERG­ING fe­male rugby tal­ent has been given a huge rea­son to shine in the new na­tional Uni 7s series: stand out and you could be off to the next Olympic Games.

The coach of the Aus­tralian women’s team, Tim Walsh, has re­vealed he has three pro­fes­sional con­tracts in his pocket to sign up the best ama­teur play­ers in the in­au­gu­ral Uni 7s com­pe­ti­tion, which be­gins next month.

The four- tour­na­ment series will be launched in Syd­ney to­day ahead of the first leg in Launce­s­ton on August 26- 27. The Uni 7s con­tains eight teams across the coun­try, all aligned with uni­ver­si­ties.

Mem­bers of the gold- medal win­ning Aussie women’s team have been split up among the teams and will be the star at­trac­tions, but Walsh’s eyes will be trained on their am­bi­tious team­mates.

“I have put aside some con­tracts there in an­tic­i­pa­tion we are go­ing to find some raw tal­ent com­ing out of that series,” Walsh said.

“There is a re­ally good take- up and the teams have four tour­na­ments to build up some con­sis­tency. It’s not just a one- off weekend.

“So that gives us a deeper look at what’s out there and I guess we are look­ing for ath­letes with a real point of dif­fer­ence. If they have the ba­sic skills, we can train them up.

“But it’s that real speed or phys­i­cal­ity that we are go­ing to be look­ing for to com­ple­ment our squad look­ing to the fu­ture, whether it be Comm Games next year or the Olympics in 2020.”

With each squad con­tain­ing 24 play­ers, the Uni 7s will see 192 young women in ac­tion.

The suc­cess of the Aus­tralian women’s team in Rio saw the sport ex­plode with pop­u­lar­ity and par­tici- pants, but Walsh is mind­ful fu­ture growth will be based on fu­ture suc­cess.

The 2016 side was cre­ated largely by har­vest­ing tal­ent from other sports, in­clud­ing touch foot­ball, basketball and sprint­ing. Many had never tack­led any­one in their life.

The Uni 7s com­pe­ti­tion is an evo­lu­tion of that tal­ent ID process, and Walsh and Uni team coaches shared test­ing data and re­cruit­ment philoso­phies dur­ing open squad tri­als.

How­ever, Walsh also en­cour­aged peo­ple to take a punt on rough di­a­monds. “We don’t want to miss them,” he said.

EMERG­ING TAL­ENT: Aus­tralia's El­lia Green makes a break dur­ing her side’s HSBC World Rugby Women's Sev­ens Series against Ire­land.

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